Rupesh Kumar Pandey (17), an only child, was on the way to attend the Saraswati Puja visarjan (murti immersion) procession on Sunday evening. Little did he or his family know that this festive occasion was soon going to be shattered for them, and end with the young man’s life being snatched away.
A gang of 4 Muslim youth assaulted Rupesh, for reasons as yet unknown, at Kariyadpur village under Barhi police station in Hazaribag district. A seriously wounded Rupesh was rushed to hospital where he was declared dead. He was a resident of Naitand village. Angry villagers resorted to arson and stray violence, which police quickly managed to quell.
Seeing the dead body of their son, his parents and other family members broke down completely. On Monday, a huge crowd gathered at Rupesh’s village and jammed a road in protest, raising slogans against the administration and demanding justice.
As is their wont, police of our secular Republic has already given a ‘no communal angle’ clean chit to the lynching.
“We have arrested the four accused, including one Aslam alias Pappu. We also have an eyewitness who was with the victim at the time of the incident. There is no communal angle in the incident and it’s not a case of mob lynching. As per initial investigation, the incident was related to a fight this group had with the boy in their college.” said Hazaribag superintendent of police Manoj Ratan Chothe, as per Hindustan Times.
What this signals is that the murder can now be filed under the ‘standard law & order issue’ category, and media/academia/activist outrage reserved for ‘communal lynchings’ (i.e. those where the victim is non-Hindu and alleged perpetrator is Hindu) will not be seen or heard. There will be no ‘Not in my name’, ‘Intolerance rising’ placard-waving protests, and Rupesh Pandey will not become a household name like Junaid Khan or Mohammed Akhlaq.
Not surprisingly, Hindustan Times (HT) tried to portray Rupesh’s mob lynching as an outcome of a clash between “members of two communities”. But all accounts state that Rupesh alone was attacked by the gang of 4 Muslims.
Apart from Rupesh’s lynching in Hazaribagh, a serious outbreak of communal violence was also reported from Markacho in Koderma district during a Saraswati Puja procession there. The reason was the usual – a ‘particular community’ took ‘offense’ to DJ music being played. 13 people from one side, and one person from the other were injured in the clash, a Dainik Jagran report states without divulging more details.
In Jamtara, Muslim residents objected to the Saraswati Puja visarjan procession passing through a route that had been in use for many years. The visarjan could only be completed after police intervention. It is said that small Hindu children were also part of the procession but were stopped by Islamists.
A large police contingent has camped at Rupesh’s village and no outsiders are being allowed to enter. Internet services have been shut in four districts of Jharkhand – Hazaribag and neighbouring Koderma, Giridih and Chatra – to prevent ‘rumor mongering’. The situation is ‘normal’ now as per police….until the next episode of a Hindu festival procession being attacked.